Virtual Learning Environments
Nowadays that science and technology have contributed with the advance of many fields of society , we teachers can not deny the fact that changes in education have been ocurring, and they are just around the corner. We can not think of the teaching-learning process as it was thought of ten or twenty years ago. Technology has undoudtedly made this important process happen beyond the limits of the physical infrastructure. Now learning environments are not only physical : a building, four walls and a roof, but virtual: with no physical boundaries.
A virtual learning environment (VLE) is “ a system that creates an environment designed to facilitate teachers in the management of educational courses for their students, especially a system using computer hardware and software, which might involve both face to face and distance learning” ( Wikipedia, 2011)
It has been stated that these environments were originally created for distance education, however, with the passing of time, they started to be used to support and complement traditional face to face classroom activities: blended learning.
There are certain elements a VLA should implement. Some of them are:
ü The syllabus for the course.
ü Administrative information.
ü Students registration.
ü Basic teaching material.
ü Additional resources such as links to spaces on the Internet.
ü Assessment. Among others (Wikipedia, 2011)
Once all these elements have been incorporated , It is the job of the teacher to exploit all them fully to get the most advantages of them.
According to Dillenbourg (2000), VLE own certain characteristics, which may make them achieve the goals they have been created for. Some of these characteristics are: students are not only active, but also actors, they co-contruct the virtual space. This means that they are not restricted to consuming web information, they become information producers as well. VLE are not restricted to distance education , they also enrich classroom activities. They integrate heterogeneous technologies and multiple pedagogical approaches.
In the TEFL field, VLE are seen as very effective platforms. These virtual environments are considered as useful and successful as face to face ones. They may actually complement each other.
At Univesidad Maritima del Caribe there is this online platform “Sistema de Aprendizaje Interactivo a Distancia” (SAID) created in MOODLE which has brought a lot of benefits to the campus in regards to physical space, time contraints, and resource economy.
This platform has been created aiming at the design and offering of intructional modules, subjects and programs to be developed under the distance learning mode.
UMC teachers who may want to instruct using the SAID platform must take a six-month course (diplomado) to learn how to work with it.
I was offered the opportunity to take this course and the experience was really worth it. I was taught how to use all MOODLE predetermined tools such as: forums, tasks, questionnaires, lessons, and how to design and administer instructional modules.
Right now, I am using this SAID platform not only to instruct and assist distance learners who are taking the module Instrumental English II for the three-year major Transporte Acuatico, but also to complement my face to face classes. This is somehow a new experience for my students, and believe me they are as amazed as me to see and realize how productive and supportive for their learning such a platform like this can be.
Link to UMC Virtual Room
References: See reference page
References: See reference page